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A blog post by Lexie, Children and Families Worker

What is a trauma bond? 

A trauma bond is a connection between an abusive person and the individual they abuse. It is reflective of an attachment created by repeating physical or emotional trauma with positive reinforcement. It can be hard to spot and even harder to break free from. 

First, we will explore the 7-stages of trauma bonding. 

Love Bombing 

At the start of the relationship, did they shower you with excess love, appreciation and gifts? That sounds lovely, doesn’t it, but is that normal? Research says no. When someone new in your life does or gives you something, you automatically feel as if you now owe them or need to do something grander for them. This can be very overwhelming and is normally used to win over your affection. You might find yourself saying “they’re too good to be true”, which is possible because they are. This stage of the relationship won’t last forever. 

Trust and Dependency 

Next, they could start doing anything and everything to get your trust. They make you depend on them heavily for love and validation. It might sound like this: “my love for you is so strong that no one could ever love you like I do”. They start to get into your head, making you think they are the only one for you. The relationship goes from 0-100, you become inseparable, and you think no one understands your love or connection. 

Criticism 

Ever-so gradually, the criticism starts; it might be about how you’re dressing or acting or who your friends are. They’re subtly blaming you for small things then bigger things. They’re demanding and want more of you for themselves. They are drip-feeding you with negative thoughts about yourself and your life. You start to think things are wrong with you. You find comfort in this person as they say they’re telling you, to protect you. 

Gaslighting 

When things go wrong, they tell you it’s your fault. They make you doubt your own perception and manipulate you into believing their narrative. It can be easy to be sucked into their world, especially when they are slowly but surely separating you from your friends and family. Try to remember that two contradictory things can’t be true; they may tell you they’ll never hurt you whilst also being abusive towards you. Both of these things cannot be true as the abuse is hurtful therefore they are hurting you. 

Resigning to Control 

You no longer know what to believe; reality feels fuzzy and old memories feel like a dream. It can feel like you’ve taken a backseat in your own mind. Your only way of feeling good or okay is giving in and doing things their way. It’s easier to say ‘yes’ at this point. They have taken control and are in the driver’s seat making the decisions. 

Loss of Self 

When you try and fight back, things get worse. You start to settle for anything to have some peace and make the fights stop. You find yourself constantly apologising to them out of fear you’ve done something to upset them. This person has broken down every part of confidence you once had before. You wonder how it has got to this stage and where it went all went wrong. 

Addiction 

You become addicted to the highs and lows as your body is on a constant stress high and craves dopamine. This creates a cycle of dependency that feels a lot like a substance addiction. You’re in the exact position they want you in; trapped. 

 

If you feel that these stages apply to your relationship, please reach out to us, friends or family for support.  

 

There is still hope to break free from a trauma bond. Through these following stages, you’ll be able to heal from the inside out and become the person you are destined to be. 

 

Stop the Secret Self Blame 

Whatever may have happened, the abuse is not your fault. Despite the things, they told you, the abuse is not your fault. You may feel as if you are the one to blame, although that is just the control this person is still trying to have over you. Repeat after me: “It is not my fault!” 

Live In Real-Time 

Try to stop thinking about what could have happened, start noticing the things happening around you in the present. One way to bring you into the moment is the 54321 method. 

‘The 54321 grounding technique is simple, yet powerful. Like gradually attaching anchors to the boat, this method slowly pulls you back to earth. First, take a moment to become mindful of your breath. Just a few deep breaths invite your body back into the moment, slowing everything down.’ 

5 things you can see 

 4 things I can touch 

 3 things I can hear 

 2 things I can smell 

 1 thing I can taste. 

Start Feeling Your Emotions 

It’s important not to ignore how you’re feeling. By talking through and letting them out, you’re acknowledging and working through the hurt and pain you may be feeling right now. Writing your feelings down can help build inner strength. Remember, once you allow yourself to feel again, they’ll ease up. 

Learn To Grieve 

Letting go is difficult and harder to do without honouring the reality that you are losing something valuable to you. You can grieve the future you thought you might have and the good times you did have. Even though it might not have been a great relationship 100% of the time, it is still a loss. 

Understanding The ‘Hook’ 

Identify what, exactly, you are losing. It may be a fantasy, dream or illusion of who you thought this person was. Are you holding onto old lies? Now is the time to let go of the idea that your needs will be met by this person. During this stage of the healing, it’s important to recognise the abusive behaviours you might have missed previously. Hindsight is a blessing in order to protect yourself for the future. 

Write A List Of Bottom Line Behaviours For Yourself 

Determine what you need to do to change old patterns of behaviours. These could be something like ‘I will take care of my own finances’ or ‘I will not argue with someone who is drunk’ or ‘I will not apologise for something that isn’t my fault.’ By setting yourself bottom line behaviours, it allows you to remain in control. You can’t change, fix or control anyone else but yourself. 

Start Planning For Your Future 

Now is the time to start making new dreams without this person. Do more of what you love and what makes you happy. If you’re not sure what those things are, try lots of new activities and see what you like. This is your life and you must start living it how you want. 

For more information, please call us on 03301 025 811.